Friday, October 29, 2010

A Way to Start the Day

How do you get your school days moving?

In order to just give a little nudge toward getting ready for the day I thought it would be interesting to write notes to the kids on the bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. It's something my roommates and I did in college and it was often a way to brighten someone else's day.

Sometimes I will write just a simple message about an event for the day. Sometimes it can be a riddle for them to solve. Anyone who has gotten ready for the day can then eagerly report to me at the breakfast table about what they think the answer is. I can also leave out letters of some words, make a grammatical mistake to be discovered, etc.

As an added bonus, the kids usually want to take a turn.

The down side: I think I may need a bigger mirror.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Favorite Free "Academic" Websites-Reading


What: Read a book. Go to the website (which is created and maintained by Sylvan learning) and take a short comprehension quiz. Earn points based on your score. There are ready-made prizes. Parents/Teachers can also make their own "prize library" based on your favorite rewards and the number of points you would like your kids to earn. There is also a "team" option where your entire group can work together to reach a specific goal.

Who: This site is for kids in grades K-8.

Why I like it: It gives me a chance to do a quick "check" to see if the kids are comprehending the books they read.

Why the kids like it: Did I mention prizes? The kids love to work toward earning extra privileges and prizes that they have helped plan. We use our "prize library" more than the ready-made library from Sylvan, but a couple years ago my son did earn a pretty cool card game.

How long I have used it: I've used this site for more than three years. I started an account for each child as soon as they could read easy books on the list (Clifford, Mercer Mayer).

Drawbacks: I'd love to see a bigger list of books available.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Laundry "Aha" Moment

I can't tell you how many times I've put things into the dryer that shouldn't be dried. I'm a multitasker. Somewhere in my haste to get the laundry from washer to dryer I forget that there is something delicate that should be "laid flat to dry" or hung.

The other day I had a brainstorm. You've all probably been doing this for years, but I wondered, "Why not jot a note right on the washer lid?" (In addition to being a multitasker I'm also a compulsive list-maker.)

From then on I've been keeping a dry-erase marker next to my laundry soap and dryer sheets. Each time I put something into the washer, I make a little number in the corner of the washing machine lid for the number of items that shouldn't be put into the dryer.

The results: A perfect record so far. As a bonus, it's also ended up being a good "red flag" if someone else goes to put the clothes into the dryer other than the person that started the load.

I have found that I need to be a little careful with the brand of dry-erase marker I use. Some come off easily with just a wipe. Others seem to require a bit of water and a firmer swipe.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Celebrating 10/10/2010 Idea List 2 and Update

My second grader did several "10" activities today.
-Find the 10 errors in this story.
-Find the time in 10 minutes, 10 minutes ago, in 10 hours.
-Put these 10 words in alphabetical order: kitten, kite, kaput, krill, knuckle, knock, kindness, Korea, kangaroo, kumquat. I thought his mind was really working when he said to me, "Why didn't you give me words starting with the 10th letter of the alphabet?" He's always thinking!
-Answer these 10 history review questions.
-Match these 10 world countries with their capital cities.
-Make any combination of these notes (whole notes, half, quarter, eighth, rests) which equal 10 beats total.
-Compose an original song using only these 10 notes on the piano.

So far, this has been a fun diversion from our regular lessons. He's completing tasks which meet state standards, too!

Here are some other ideas we came up with, but haven't used yet:

-Read up to chapter 10 in our current read-aloud book.
-Find 10 books on your shelf written in the last 10 years.

-Find 10 abbreviations and 10 homophones in the newspaper.

-Add 10 adjectives to liven up the story you wrote last week.
-Journal topic: What would you like to be able to do by age 10?
-Journal topic: I wish I knew 10 _______... If I swallowed 10__________...

-Count the number of days until we can celebrate 11-11-2011!
-Write ten < > = number sentences.
-Count out 10+10+10 pennies. Make a graph to show how many were minted within the last 10 years and how many were minted before that time. Were there any surprising results?

-Name 10 countries in the northern hemisphere.
-Put these 10 events from the Middle Ages (our current history time) in chronological order.

-Find 10 constellations or heavenly bodies in the night sky. (We're currently studying space science.)
-Take a 10 minute nature hike.

-Take 10 minutes to do some outdoor photography. Look through the pictures and choose 10 you'd like to keep and print.

-Do something very special on 10-10-2010 at 10:00.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Celebrating 10/10/10 - Idea List 1

I know 10-10-2010 is on a Sunday, but I couldn't resist...

I usually stick pretty closely to our curriculum, but after 50 school days we're all ready for something a little different.

Today we started brainstorming a list of ways we can celebrate 10/10/10 across all curriculum subjects. Everyone in the family from 5 to adult was giving input. I'm so excited that I had to share what we've come up with so far. And we're just getting started! We're on such a roll, I fear it may take us 10 days to celebrate all of our ideas! I hope there are at least a couple of ideas here that help you! Have fun learning!

(These ideas are for our second grade and kindergarten levels, but I tried to make some notes on how they could be adapted for higher levels.)

-Do handwriting practice with 10 letters.
-Do handwriting practice with words that are 10 letters long.
-Write a 10-line poem.
-Write a complete sentence which is 10 words long.

-Have three free reading sessions, 10 minutes each. Or do 10 minutes independently + 10 minutes listening to me + 10 minutes reading with your reading partner.
-Read 10 picture books. Older students could read 10 chapters. Choose your favorite and write or draw about your favorite character or favorite part of the book.

-Practice 10 new spelling words.
-Do a crossword puzzle with 10 clues about a theme you're studying. I love to use puzzlemaker. Other types of word puzzles are available for you to make (for free!) there, too.

-Learn 10 new words.
-Practice dictionary skills with those 10 words.
(Puzzlemaker puzzles are good for these, too.)

-Name 10 nouns (or pronouns, verbs, adjectives...).
-Find and recite several 10-line poems.
-Find 10 proofreading errors in this letter I wrote to you.

-Create a design with 10 pattern blocks. Older students create a design with 10 each of the different shapes of blocks.
-Younger students can practice counting out 10 of all sorts of things. These can be used later for the art activities, snack times, etc.
-Solve my pre-made design using 10 pattern blocks.
-Find the full date 10 days from now.
-Use a newspaper grocery ad to make a meal plan for less than $10. Older students can be challenged to make a whole day's meals for under $10.
-How much do 10_____ weigh?
-Write 10 math problems that =10.
-How much would 10 ______ cost?
-Estimate: Will these 10 _____ weigh more or less than 10 g (or 10 pounds)? Advanced: Fido weighs 3.5 pounds. Are you heavier or lighter than 10 Fidos?
-Find 10 things around the room that are less than 10 inches long. Record what you find and their lengths.
-Show a clock. What time will it be in 10 minutes? What time was it 10 minutes ago?
-"If you pay for a $3.99 pumpkin using a $10 bill, how much change should you get back?" and similar making change problems. 
-Measure 10g + 10g + 10g of three different cereals for breakfast or a snack.
-Practice fractions with denominators of 10.

-Find 10 world capitals or countries of the world. This can be done using rivers, bodies of water, mountain ranges around the world, too.
-Find 10 new facts about a country of your choice.
-Find a list of grocery prices from the 1920s. What could you buy with 10 cents? How do each of these items compare with their prices today. Older students can find the difference between the prices or compute the percent increase in price.

-Try 10 new foods. (My picky-eater son came up with this one!)
-Learn 10 new facts about your current science topic (ours is space).
-Health: How many calories in 10 carrots? 10 Tootsie Rolls?
-Collect 10 different kinds of leaves.

-Make a picture or painting using 10 different colors.
-Make a collage using 10 pieces of ____, 10 pieces of ______, and 10 pieces of ____. (I suppose you could use 10 pieces, 10 pieces, and 2,010 but who is going to sit and count out that many?!?)
-Work together to make 10 notecards with your art supplies. We'll use these later when writing to people.

-Use a mixed-artist music CD to listen to songs by 10 different artists. Compare and contrast the moods, tempo, etc. of the pieces.

-Do 10 jumping jacks (or sit-ups, windmills...).
-How far can we walk/run in 10 minutes? (Go somewhere that you can easily measure this or use a route that can be checked with your car's odometer.)
-Make a goal to shoot 10 basketball hoops, 10 baseball hits to the outfield, 10 soccer goals.

-Learn 10 new words in that language.
-Find out how to count to 10 in 10 different languages.

-Spend 10 minutes on your typing program.

-Can you beat me at chess in 10 minutes?

-How could I do enough chores to earn $10? (This one came from my financially-interested son.)
-My husband suggested that he find 10 ways to give $1 or do 10 good things for someone else using a $10 budget.
-Phone skills: Call Grandpa (or your most patient relative) and tell him 10 jokes.
-Help plan and make a 10-ingredient salad for dinner.

-Give an extra 10 minutes of recess, screen time, or anything else you use to celebrate hard work well done.
-Do pretty much any activity for 10 minutes. One I'd love to use on a rough day: Can we all refrain from talking for 10 minutes?

Some ideas here are similar to the ways we celebrate the 100th day of school. Other ideas are new for us. I can't wait to get started!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

50 States

Did you know that "Grand Old Flag" is the perfect tune for memorizing the 50 states?

I didn't either. But on a (very) long family car trip a few years ago I decided to "entertain" myself by looking at a map of the 50 states. (I was the passenger, of course.) This map also listed the order in which the states were admitted.

"Wouldn't it be great to know all 50 states in order?" I asked myself.

With nothing but miles ahead of me I started experimenting with songs that might fit the natural rhythm of the states. Eventually I stumbled upon "Grand Old Flag" and it fit so well that I had to use it. By the time we had reached our destination, I had almost all 50 memorized.

You may not believe me, but my 2 year-old, blessed to be stuck with me in the back, had the first section memorized, too! It didn't matter that he didn't completely understand the words; he just loved music and he loved to repeat things. (He also loved "showing off" to his amazed relatives on that visit, and took pride in teaching the states to his Grammy!) Even today, 5 years later, it doesn't take much effort to recall those states. 

Music is powerful. I often remember places, people, events from the past just by hearing one line of a song. It's an awesome tool for bringing together bits of information and making them much easier to memorize.

I've broken up the states by verse below:
(As a bonus, the first 13 states are also the 13 colonies)

Delaware, Pennsylvania,
New Jersey, Georgia,
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland,
South Carolina, New Hampshire,
Virginia, New York,
North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont,
Kentucky, Tennessee,
Ohio, Louisiana,
Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois,
Alabama, Maine, Missouri,
Arkansas and Michigan

Florida, Texas
Iowa, Wisconsin,
California, Minnesota, Oregon,
Kansas, West Virginia,
Nevada, Nebraska,
Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota
Montana, Washington,
Idaho, Wyoming,
Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico,
Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii
And the Capital is Washington, D.C.

I hope to figure out how to insert a listening clip of these. Enjoy!